WPC: Shine

It was really one of those days when you don’t want to be outside – a late spring day on the Colorado Plateau.  With a cold front sliding by to the north, winds were a constant 45mph and gusting in the 60s.  Yet, the sun was still out.  Every loose particle of dust from Barstow to Albuquerque was on the move.  I was driving near Page, Arizona so I thought the shelter of Antelope Canyon would be a good place to hide out for a while.

There had been a tour group going through, so another photographer and I just stayed back a ways.  The sun only has a few minutes each day to pinpoint its way through the narrow opening of the canyon.  As it did on this particular day, the wind gusts were picking up nearby sand and depositing it in the canyon.  In the three exposures I took, I can see the movement of the shaft of light.  I also had to blow sand off my lens between exposures.  Mostly, we were thankful the tour group did not return at this moment.

I was using a large format film camera, with slow film, and the aperture stopped down for depth of field.  Even though this is the brightest light I have ever seen in Antelope Canyon, that all translates to long exposure.  Similar to long exposures of moving water, it took several seconds for the swirling dust to fill the shaft of light.  Had today’s digital cameras been around back then, I could have taken this with a higher ISO and lower f-stop and perhaps captured this as Peter Lik did in his “Phantom”.  Some of you may recognize this location from “Phantom” – a work that Peter Lik supposedly sold for $6.5 million.

This has been my second best selling print, but if someone wants it in a wall sized b&w, I would close the edition and let it go for a mere million.

For this week’s Daily Post Challenge of Shine

Monochrome Madness: MM3-27

When people think of autumn color, they usually think of places like the northeastern US or Smoky Mountains.  Here in the southwest, we get our seasonal change in patches, rather than sprawling hillsides.  That usually means canyons, and one of the best displays for autumn is Zion National Park, Utah.  Perhaps it’s the tall canyon walls protecting the trees from the winds that could drop the leaves before the colors peak, but conditions are very favorable here for a great autumn display.  And just because the scene is alive with color, it doesn’t mean you need to be capturing it that way.  The original for this was captured on Kodak Pan-X 4×5 film.

This is my addition to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  Photos from others as well as instructions to join in can be found on her website.

October Moon

Last night, just before I thought I was going to bed, I stepped outside to take a look at the clouds and enjoy the fresh breeze.  The motion of the clouds passing in front of the moon was fascinating, and I knew I had to go inside and grab my camera.  My DSLR shoots really good video, but I also brought out my basic Sony camcorder.  The camcorder does well in low light, even though it has the smaller sensor.  I had a feeling the breezes were going to shake the long lens I was going to use on the camera.

I’m amazed at digital technology in that I can take a decent shot of the moon hand-held with a long lens.  The results improved when I put it on a tripod, but they were still very acceptable without.  As I suspected, I didn’t get any lengthy videos without vibration on the DSLR videos.  This one is from the Sony, and in real time.  Just in time for Halloween!

WPC: Local

There’s nothing I’d want to take a picture of in my neighborhood, but I can see this mountain clearly from my windows.  For this week’s Daily Post Challenge of Local, I present to you a place I know by heart.

I was out here last week on a trail I have taken several times before.  Back to the bristlecone pines, the ancient forest.  As another dry year passes, and more people venture into the area, I am thankful there have been no major fires here.  It seems there are no “helpful” fires any more – the kind that sustain a forest – just large devastating ones.  In a normal winter, there will be snow lingering on this trail into May.  I am hoping for a normal or above normal winter, but that doesn’t seem very likely….again.  In the meantime, I try to get out to my local hangouts whenever I can.

Monochrome Madness: MM3-26

Last week I had a chance to return to my muse, Valley of Fire State Park.  I had planned to be there for the first light of sunrise, but an accident on the highway had everybody crawling along for a while…before 6am.  When I arrived at the park, the clouds had incredible depth and the first wave of color was ablaze.  The fact that I arrived late turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  My plan was to capture the sunrise further into the park, but I explored in this area instead.  I had been near this small arch before, but never stepped into this spot.  It’s rare when I can’t decide if I prefer a photograph in color or b&w, but I love this shot both ways.  Image captured with in-camera hdr, then simple conversion to b&w.

The color original:

small arch in Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. Photo by Steve Bruno at gottatakemorepix

This is my addition to Monochrome Madness this week on Leanne Cole’s site.  See what others have posted here.


Canyon hikes are some of the best adventures in the desert southwest.  Some of these have year round water, and in those cases, no trail.  Much of the time will be spent hiking in the water, which is quite refreshing on hot days.  I always felt safe in the water with my guard down, and looked more alertly for the dangers along the rocky canyon bottoms.  That all changed at the moment of this photograph.

I was standing in the waters of the San Francisco River in eastern Arizona.  I had my large camera on a tripod in a spot about a foot deep in the river.  I was talking with my hiking partner when we both heard the disruption in the water behind me as though a fish had jumped up.  We both stood in disbelief as this rattlesnake slowly raised itself up on the ledge on the opposing bank.  We were on the shallow side of the river, but the snake had come out of a pool that was at least three feet deep.  We watched our steps everywhere after that!

The San Francisco River from a safer distance:


WPC: Nostalgia

The Elks Theater in Prescott, Arizona is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  These photos were taken at the end of 2005, after work was done to replace the aging ropes of the stage sets.  At the time, there were very few theaters still using this type of hoisting system, as most have moved to an electronic control panel, or at least a stage-level operating area with stacks of counterweights.

The theater has undergone renovations in the last few years, but I imagine the stage has remained intact.  It is one of the elements that makes the place unique and historic.  From what I’ve read, all the restoration has been going into the seating area, lobby, and exterior.

In the Elks Theater, the person operating the curtains and other stage sets has to climb this ladder to get to the operating platform.  The door (plywood panel) is normally locked against this ladder to prevent unauthorized access.


Once on the elevated platform, all the ropes are tied off here.  The sandbags are the counterweight for the appropriate curtains or sets.


Once on the platform, there is another ladder going up to the pulley system, where the ropes extend out across the stage and drop to the points where the pipes are tied off.



In response to this week’s Daily Post Challenge:  Nostalgia

On The Trail Of A Stereotype

When I first started out in photography, I was fortunate to find a great stock agency to sign on with.  The woman who ran it was very knowledgeable and provided tips on what to shoot and more importantly, perspectives from which to shoot.  On one of my early visits, I asked for a list of subjects.  Saguaro cacti at sunset was one of the items on the list.

When I returned about a month or two later with material to review, her response was less than enthused.  She accepted a couple, but then said, “Can you find a postcard cactus?”  “A What?” I replied.  “A postcard cactus – you know, one with one arm on each side, but one side slightly lower.”

I had never heard that expression before, but apparently in the early days of postcards, someone had taken a picture of this type of cactus that sold very well.  People then came to expect that all saguaro cacti looked like that.  The state of Arizona has one on their standard issue license plate, but the previous red license plate had the perfect stereotype.

So the entire request went something like this:  One saguaro cactus (of the postcard variety) without any others nearby…..close enough to recognize, but not filling the frame… the right angle so as to not cut off the base…..with generic looking mountains in the background…..and a spectacular sunset.  Right.

In my travels, I eventually spotted a couple of these elusive cacti, but they were always in some location that involved scrambling – something I didn’t want to do with a flashlight.  I was looking for “road kill“.  The top shot is as close as I ever came to the complete request.  Along the way, I encountered many beautiful, unique saguaros.  One of these ended up being my best selling stock photograph by a huge margin.

For this week’s Daily Post Challenge: Quest

Monochrome Madness: MM3-22

The first hints of pleasant temperatures have made it to the desert southwest, and before September 21st.  I’m sure that’s a mistake, but we’ll take it!

Autumn is a lot more reliable in the high country.  In those years where there aren’t any storm fronts and their associated winds, some forests can take on pretty spectacular colors.  The aspen trees are in the highest life zones, and the first to change color.  That’s usually a brilliant gold, but sometimes they can linger to deep oranges and reds.

This particular stand of aspens, mixed with the pines, is from the Kaibab National Forest, north of the Grand Canyon.  Although a major fire has devastated a large portion of that forest, it is still one great place to view the seasonal change. The contrast of the brilliant aspens to the other trees, along with a very clear sky makes for nice full days of hiking and photography.

This is my addition to Leanne Cole’s Monochrome Madness this week.  You can check out her website here.

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